How to Stain Banisters Dark with Java Gel

You’ve been dreaming of changing your stair banister color….. forever.  But every time you plan to start the job, something always interferes.  Like you, I knew I could do the job myself, but also knew it was going to take some time…… and yes some work.  So, I kept putting it off.  Until I found some inspiration and helpful tips on pinterest.  And the journey began.  How To Stain Banisters Dark With Java Gel.

BEFORE pic……


and AFTER….


Complete transformation.  Why didn’t I do this sooner?? 

Well, you need a little time (4-5 days), a lot of patience, and maybe some wine in between coats ;).  But the end result was sooooo worth it!

AND NOW…. Updated Pic.  Click 5 Tips:  Adding Hardware To Curved Staircase for more info.


How To Stain Banisters Dark With Java Gel

So, where to begin?

I got on pinterest and started researching how to do it with the least amount of headaches as possible (found this great tutorial by Kelly with practically spoiled ), and the conclusion was simple.  

Stain your banisters with Java Gel.   I had been painting/staining furniture for years and already had the java gel on hand.  So it was an easy decision!


  1. Dropcloths, plastic, old sheets, etc….
  2. Painters tape
  3. Ladder
  4. 1-2 paintbrushes (if cleaning with mineral spirits or paint thinner) OR a bag of foam paint brushes so you can toss out after each use
  5. Stir Stick
  6. General Finishes Java Gel Stain
  7. Minwax polyurethane (I used satin)
  8. ***sander deglosser*** optional
  9. ***mineral spirits or paint thinner if cleaning brushes*** optional

Optional Supplies:


How To Stain Banisters Dark With Java Gel


Make sure ALL exposed areas such as:  hardwood floors, carpet, in between spindles, etc….. are covered with something. 

Use dropcloths, plastic, old sheets, etc….but make sure nothing is left uncovered.  There will always be some kind of splatter or drip, and you might accidentally bump something with your brush. 

So, double check yourself on this part because this stain……well it STAINS.  It is oil based and will not come off.


Next, make sure to put painters tape (or some kind of wide tape – 1 1/2″ wide) on BOTH sides of the banister. 

Tear some pieces off, and put the tape where the banister meets the spindles.  It will take a little extra time, but worth it. 

This will help from getting stain on the spindles (if you have wood), and having to go back and try to paint over the stain when you have an oops moment. 

Trust me- it will happen.  If you don’t have wide tape, then double the 3/4″ size to make it wider.


***TIP ONE*** Stir java gel with stir stick really well to get all the sediments from the bottom and to blend it better.   The stain will go on much easier and smoother when blended.

***TIP TWO*** Begin on outside of banister if you can’t get to it with a ladder.  You don’t want to lean over the banister and get stain on your clothes, plus you’ll have to redo it anyway because the stain has come off in places (and now on you ;)).

***TIP THREE*** Begin with the top of the stairs and move downward.  It is easier to use a downward brush stroke, than upwards.

***TIP FOUR***  Use the sander deglosser before putting first coat of stain on, if you still have a lot of gloss on banister.  Mine was worn off (because it had been on for 10 years), so I did not use it.



Take one of your brushes, get a small amount of stain on it, and use brush strokes that go with the grain of the wood (length stroke). 

You will need to work fairly quickly because it will dry at a faster rate than regular stain.  Just keep dipping the brush in the stain, wipe any excess stain off, and then keep moving down your banister. 

Let this dry overnight.  The can says 4-6 hours, but it works better if completely dry.  Plus, you’ll want the break.


The second coat will be much easier to do than the first coat since you are simply going over the work you have already done. 

(It’s kind of like painting your finger/toe nails.  The first coat always takes a little longer because you have to get into all the grooves and crevices perfectly, but then the second coat is basically just covering what you have already done- right?)

Let stain dry overnight.  I did both of my coats during the day as soon as my kiddos left for school. 

This way the banister would have almost 4-6 hours to dry before they came back home. 

And I felt a little safer about the drying time just in case the kiddos accidentally touched the banisters (and they happen to still be a little damp).



I know you don’t have to do the polyurethane when you use gel stain. 

But since the banisters are used EVERY day at my house, and by messy hands….. I went ahead and did this step anyway. 

It adds just a little extra protection, and hopefully less maintenance down the road. 

Brush on one coat, and let dry overnight.  I did this at night so there was no chance of little hands touching the rails.


Repeat same process as before, and let dry overnight.  And…. you are done!!!

I went ahead and painted my spindles again just to give them a fresh look (it was color match to my home builder trim), and it made all the difference. 

Here are some before pics of how it  used to look with green walls (SW Favorite Tan), original stain, and scratched up spindles. 

And then the after with the gray walls (SW Amazing gray), java gel stain, and repainted spindles.


Top of stairs BEFORE…….

and AFTER……..



Close up BEFORE……

and AFTER…..


I am in the process of changing out the carpet to wood, so check back in for the update!


Have a Great Day!!

Love & hugs 🙂

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  1. Looks fantastic! I am doing my whole staircase now including the steps. Question: did you have a tall ladder to paint the spindles or just leaned over to do both sides of each spindle? I’m assuming the ladder is easier??

    1. Hi Anne – thanks!
      Yes – I did a little bit of both -the ladder and reaching over to paint the rails. It is so much easier to paint the outside of the railing with the ladder, but it is a little scary being up so high. Just be careful 🙂
      take care –

    1. hi randi – thanks!
      the new color is SW Tinsmith (with hardwood on stairs), and old color is SW Amazing Gray.
      hope this helps 🙂

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